My mother was partial to lily-of-the valley. She had a flower bed full of them below the dining room window, which was north facing. Nevertheless, every spring, new green leaves poked through the mossy remains of the previous year’s growth and in due course the gloriously scented rows of tiny white bells appeared, only to fall into decay by the year’s end.
My mother died two years ago. She lived not far from me, in a house built for my family fifty years ago. I had lived there myself from the age of 16 and nobody else had occupied it. I had had my eyes on some of those lilies-of-the-valley since she died, but it didn’t seem right to pillage them when new people were moving in.
However, it transpired that extensive development of the property was planned, for which planning permission was granted earlier this year. The front porch, beside the lily bed, would be demolished. The flower bed would be destroyed.
I procrastinated for weeks. Then I recalled an event which occurred when I was aged 12. It was a Sunday morning and I was in church as usual. There was a guest preacher, an American chaplain from one of the air bases in the region. In his children’s address, he held up a large, shiny, silver dollar and said he would give it to anyone who took it. How I wanted that dollar! One of my hobbies was collecting coins, but I had nothing like this. But I was too self conscious to walk out into the limelight to take something that wasn’t mine. My life was full of shoulds and oughts. And so a younger boy went up and I had to pretend to myself that I didn’t really want it, possessions were vulgar and so on. (I hold my mother responsible for these attitudes!).
So last week I drove past my family home, and, having seen that building works had not started, parked the car down the lane a bit, rang the bell, explained myself to the pleasant woman who answered, and was told I could take as many plants as I liked and if there was anything else in the garden that I fancied, to take it as well. Simple!
I have never forgotten that childhood incident. It has taken me a long time to translate it into action, but I have learned: if you want something, ask for it. They can only say no. And with any luck, it shall be given.
A Moodscope member.